The BBC is running a story about the efficacy of flu vax in the UK — a new analysis shows it may not be worth it for everyone (we stress, however, there’s no doubt about its usefulness in the elderly):
In the UK, experts say groups most at risk, such as the elderly, should get the vaccine during the flu season. But it is difficult for scientists to make the vaccine because the influenza viruses mutate and the strains circulating vary from year to year.
This also makes it difficult for scientists to study the precise effects of vaccines, said Mr Jefferson, who works for the Cochrane Library – a body that determines the relative effectiveness of health interventions.
He said the most reliable way to judge their effects was to use systematic reviews – impartial summaries of evidence from many different studies. But when he did this, he found flu vaccines had little or no effect on many influenza campaign objectives such as hospital stay, time off work, or death from influenza and its complications.
Most studies were of poor quality and there was little evidence on vaccine safety. Mr Jefferson said: “There is a misfit between the evidence and policy, and tax payers ought to ask why.”
He said it was possible that some of the sickness labelled as flu was actually due to other infections, which would cloud the picture.
Frankly, we’re bored by the annual media circus that surrounds the seemingly innocuous practice of flu vaccination. But we are tickled to see the UK’s health policy watchdog is called National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence — NICE. It’s hard to get intimidated by a group called NICE, that is, until they declare your project against the public’s interest and get your funding yanked. Naughty, really.
More from Tom Jefferson in BMJ…